Bal des Ardents (Ball of the Burning Men)

January 28, 1393: the mentally unstable young French King Charles VI demands that his courtiers dress as shaggy-haired “wild men” and dance in a “diabolical frenzy” while holding flaming torches. Their resin-soaked suits catch fire before a horrified court, killing four of the highest noblemen in France. After the carnage, Charles VI, who survived, was revealed to be one of the wild men. King Charles began to believe that he was made of glass and often ran “howling like a wolf down the corridors of the royal palaces.” (via)

Artworks: 1) The Master of Anthony of Burgundy, 1470s. 2) Detail from illuminated miniature by Jean Froissart, 1470-72.


The Black Corpse of the Sun

Surfacing are writing a specially commissioned piece - tentatively titled ‘The Black Corpse of the Sun’ -  for the opening weekend of Ordinary Culture’s Duke’s Wood Project, which sees a number of artists engaging with a site in north Nottinghamshire from where oil was extracted between 1939 and 1966, and which is now a nature reserve. During World War Two its oil was found to be of particular use for powering fighter planes; now, long-discareded pumpjacks jut out of the woods like the strangest public art, butterflies dancing around their inert angles.

Our piece engages with the site’s sentience and geopolitical-ecological function, which flows between the supposed boundaries between ‘nature’ and ‘culture’; war and peace such that these categories are no longer viable. Drawing on many of the themes that artists in the project engage with, techno-futurism sits merges with prehistoric ooze; dread with hope; noise with silence. Oil still lies beneath the site: so much death waiting for us to re-animate it, like that which has been repressed waiting for its surfacing…

"that black and nefarious essence of all life that had ever been, constituting in fact a great deep-digged black graveyard of the ultimate eldritch past with blackest ghosts, oil had waited for undreds of millions of years, dreaming its black dreams, sluggishly pulsing beneath Erat’s stony skin, quivering in lightless pools roofed with marsh gas and in top-filled rock tanks and coursing through a myriad channels…’ - Fritz Leiber, Black Gondolier (quoted in Eugene Thacker’s ‘Black Infinity; or, Oil Discovers Humans’)

We will be performing on Saturday 31st August at Duke’s Wood. The full programme is as follows:

• Public launch of all newly commissioned artworks.

• 1-3pm - Family activities with Joanna Dacombe 

• 3pm - Introductory tour with Dukes Wood Project Curators

• Bow Down: A series of intermittent performances taking place in the woodland clearings throughout the day with poets Alec Finlay and Amy Cutler and singer Hanna Tuulikki.

• 5pm - 8pm - Opening reception at Duke’s Wood with film screenings and a live performance by Surfacing.

A return bus can be booked from Nottingham by clicking here.



true though my concern in the post i wrote was more on the use of ‘hipster’ as an insult to denegrate anything that lies outside mainstream culture, the concept of ‘hipster’ as a force for enforcing hetrosexist, culturaly elitist discorse.

Yeah, that’s definitely a thing. And marxism certainly doesn’t have all the answers on this: I’ve heard enough ortho-trots complain that queer theory just gives capitalism some new subjectivities to sell back at people. The danger with critiquing hipsters/creative regeneration is that you end up arguing that any form of ‘creativity’ - whether music, dress sense, food, art - is anti working class. If you cede that to capitalism, you’ve lost the battle. 


Hipster’s a tricky one, isn’t it. Once it referred to working-class people (mostly black) who refused to know their place: who dressed well, smoked weed, enjoyed their leisure time. They broke out of the drudgery of the daily routine just as their music (bebop) broke out of the conventions of swing. 

Whilst I think ‘hipster’ is used too liberally (today’s ‘pretentious’), it’s still an important category if aligned to a class consciousness. In capitalism’s gentrifying assault on the working class (and race is an important factor here again), hipsters are a vital agent. They’re productive precisely because they don’t know their place. They go to inner-city areas that the more stable (‘square’) middle-classes would never dream of venturing. There they consume sour dough pizza for £10 (washed down with a craft beer), put on trendy club nights and show no awareness for the role they play in pushing out the incumbent population who can no longer pay the ludicrous rents (and who, even if they could, would find their family-owned grocers gone, their schools closed, their market stall holders forced out…).

The hipsters are doomed by the bourgeoisie, though. They’re chased out. Once they make an area ‘safe’ they’re surplus to requirements. Music venues are closed down because yuppies don’t like the noise entering their ‘luxury apartments’. They complain. They see themselves as the victims of capitalism. Perhaps they are, in a way, but they’re its accomplice too.  


i’ve been thinking about the anti-hipster thing and while i’m sure there are a number of self-obsessed folks latching onto the idea it’s became obvious that it’s merely anti-intilectualism in a new form

'hipster' includes people who read Ulysses, catcher in the rye, slaughterhouse five, proust,…